Friends of the Fredericksburg Nature Center
2016 Summary Report
Friends of the Fredericksburg Nature Center (FFNC) volunteers were hard at work last year, working to fulfill our mission of promoting nature education for members of our community and for visitors to the Texas Hill Country.
Updated trailhead signage in Lady Bird Johnson Park
If you have visited the nature trails in Lady Bird Johnson Park recently, you may have noticed our new trailhead exhibit. Because all of our signage is outdoors and exposed to weather conditions, the need for replacement has been a continuing issue. We are undergoing a conversion to more durable signs for our various exhibits.
2016 Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival
Despite predictions of rainy weather, we had a good turnout for our sixth Wings Over the Hills Nature festival, held at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park. Our keynote speaker was Cecelia Riley, former Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Birding Observatory in Lake Jackson, Texas. Ms. Riley also led a birding trip to Lost Maples State Park. Last year we added trips to the “Kerrville Hotspots” and to Guadalupe River State Park. Combined with our venues of Enchanted Rock, “Junction Hotspots”, Love Creek Nature Preserve and Lost Maples, participants were able to enjoy exposure to many Hill Country nature areas. Participation was up from the previous year and many good bird species were seen on all of the trips.
We hosted a distinguished group of speakers who made excellent presentations on a variety of nature related topics including birds, bats, butterflies and other bugs, dragonflies and live snakes. In 2016 we added opportunities designed for “beginning” birders. We also added a workshop on the threat of chronic wasting disease on our Hill Country white tailed deer population. For children, we offered a bug safari, nature-related crafts and games, an exhibit of live snakes and reptiles as well as an interactive show featuring Lucas Miller, the Singing Zoologist from Austin. Our award-winning nature photographer, Ruth Hoyt, conducted an excellent workshop.
More than 125 attendees visited our Hummingbird banding demonstration on Bill and Fran Dendy’s Ranch near Harper. John Karger, Last Chance Forever raptor rehabilitator, presented his birds of prey flying demonstration for the sixth year. Excellent vendors participated in the trade show, showcasing nature related art, crafts and supplies for nature related hobbies.
Creation of a Wildflower “pocket prairie”
As many of you know, Lady Bird Johnson was a passionate advocate for the preservation and enhanced use of wildflowers, resulting in beautification along our state highways. As a way of honoring the namesake of Lady Bird Johnson Park, the FFNC board of directors is working to establish and replenish more stands of wildflowers within the park. In 2010, a small area along the HAT trail was selected as a site for a pocket prairie but the ensuring several years of drought severely inhibited our progress. As the Pollinator Garden has matured, we have been able to harvest wildflower seeds for use in seeding new pocket prairies across from the park office and along the HAT trail. More favorable weather conditions last year resulted in the germination and growth of nice stands of native plants, including bluebonnets and Indian Blankets. We plan to continue this process in order to create other wildflower fields within the park.
May Rains Washed Away Third Grade Day in the Park
For the first time since the Third Grade Day in the Park was established in 2005, last year’s program was cancelled due to thunderstorms. Our backup date also resulted in a cancellation due to rain. FFNC’s nature outreach program for area third graders is one of our signature events and although the rainy spring brought many benefits, we were disappointed to interrupt our eleven-year tradition of hosting the students. We will offer the program again in May and hope for favorable weather this year.
FFNC wins Blue Ribbon in the Fredericksburg Christmas Parade
Friends board members and the steering committee for the Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival teamed up to enter a two vehicle float in Fredericksburg’s “Light the Night” Christmas Parade. The winter forest scene, populated with many colorfully costumed characters generated enthusiastic applause from the thousands of people lined up along Main Street. Our entry received coverage on Austin’s CBS affiliate, KEYE, which televised the parade. We appreciate the hardy FFNC group who braved the cold and wet conditions to make final float preparations on parade day and we were thankful that the weather improved for the actual parade. Our participation provided good publicity for FFNC and Wings both in Austin and Fredericksburg.
The Pollinator Garden: Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park
The Tuesday morning “HAT Workers” were very busy in 2016. In addition to our work maintaining trails, stocking feeders in the bird viewing station and caring for plants in the original “Butterfly Habitat”, we focus much of our effort on tending the Pollinator Garden. We are rewarded by the beautiful and ever changing blooms and winged visitors observed during our work there. On workdays we note the many park visitors exploring the garden and we often have the opportunity to answer their questions about native plants and about the various pollinators seen there.
This garden has also become an integral part of our Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival, with speakers and workshop leaders bringing participants out to observe the abundance of pollinator activity and the plant diversity. In the fall months, the garden is especially remarkable, with more than thirty species of butterflies often on display.
We are extremely grateful to the very dedicated volunteers who spend many hours weeding, pruning and watering this very special addition to the park.
New volunteers are always welcome and on the job training is available! If you haven’t seen the Pollinator Garden yet, we hope that you will come out to see what we have accomplished there.
Nature Education Scholarships
In 2016 FFNC allocated funds to assist teachers wishing to attend Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s Project WILD workshops for educators. We also offered scholarships to facilitate disadvantaged youth participation in summer nature camps offered by FISD’s Community Education Department.
2017 Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival
The Wings Steering Committee is working hard to make this year’s festival the best ever. Each year we have worked to streamline and improve the components of our festival. We have been pleased with the increasing numbers of participants and are heartened by the positive feedback they have provided. We sincerely appreciate the generosity of all of our festival sponsors; their financial and in-kind support have been crucial to making previous festivals a success. We are grateful to the City of Fredericksburg for the $4,000 Hotel Occupancy Tax funds grant that covers our promotional expenses. We are particularly grateful for the generous financial support of our Friends. Such a festival as Wings is not possible without the many hundreds of hours of volunteer time to plan and execute the activities. The festival fits well with our mission to promote nature in the Hill Country. We hope you will again support our seventh edition of the Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival.
We are very excited to have Dorian Anderson, an amazing young man, as our 2017 festival headliner. In 2014, Dorian undertook a “Big Year”, traveling only by bicycle, on foot and by kayak. He covered 17,500 miles during his quest to see as many birds as possible in a calendar year. On this adventure, during which 617 species were recorded, Dorian raised over $50,000 for three national wildlife refuges. Please join us to hear more about this experience and the reasons it was undertaken. It is an incredible story that you won’t want to miss. Dorian will also be leading birding field trips –these are sure to be fully booked so early signup is strongly recommended.
We welcome help in planning the 2017 festival, but we especially need volunteers April 28th-30th to help with registration, children’s activities, hospitality and other functions during the event. We also are in need of B&B accommodations for speakers and field trip leaders.
Final Thoughts: Notes from the FFNC Board President
That the nature area in Lady Bird Johnson Park has been in place for sixteen years and the Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival for six years is a tribute to the power of volunteers as exemplified by the Friends and Hill Country Master Naturalists. Whether you helped fund the activities or contributed labor, we all can be proud of the successful endeavor that has brought joy to many thousands of hikers, school children and nature lovers of all ages. The more than 260 wildflowers and 180 bird species occurring in the park are a living tribute to Lady Bird’s love of Hill Country nature. We are also very grateful for the partnership with the City of Fredericksburg in supporting nature activities in all of the parks. Thank you for your support to make it happen and your continued support to make it even more successful in the future. Reading this newsletter combined with a trip to the park will give you a sense of the difference you have made for our community and her visitors.
Thank you and continue to enjoy our wonderful natural heritage.
Bill Lindemann, President